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McCarthy beefs up patrol officers in violent districts

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy meet least once week discuss crime strategy gangs shootings. | John H.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy meet at least once a week to discuss crime strategy, gangs and shootings. | John H. White~Sun-Times.

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Updated: November 11, 2011 5:54PM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel calls his police superintendent every day. Sometimes three times or more. And they meet at least once a week to discuss crime strategy, gangs and shootings.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said he likes the scrutiny because he holds his own commanders equally accountable.

In an interview at police headquarters, McCarthy said his strategy of giving his commanders responsibility for reducing crime in their districts is paying off.

“From the time we walked through the door [in May], we’ve been retooling the agency,” he said. “But we’re taking baby steps, quite frankly.”

Part of McCarthy’s challenge has been to fulfill Emanuel’s pledge to put 1,000 more officers on patrol. McCarthy has shifted almost 900 officers to patrol by closing specialized units and moving other officers from desk jobs. He also launched CompStat, a statistics-driven system that shows where cops are best deployed.

Eleven of Chicago’s 25 districts account for 80 percent of the violence, so he deployed extra patrol officers to the busier districts. Englewood, for example, had fewer than 300 patrol officers before he took office and now has more than 400, he said.

McCarthy also found that enforcement was down and crime was up on the midnight to 8 a.m. shift. Patrol officers have been added to that shift, but things could change as it gets colder, McCarthy said.

“It’s seasonal,” he said. “In the fall, you might have your most violent events from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.”

One key to his strategy is getting cops out of their cars and making contact with people on the street. “If they know the cops are going to get out of their cars, they’re less likely to carry a gun,” he said.

Another key is holding commanders accountable for the crime statistics in their districts. No commanders have been removed yet as a result of poor performance, McCarthy said. But “we anticipate there will be some movement within the district commands and area commands,” he added.

McCarthy said shootings may be the most important measure of violent crime. That’s why he changed the way those statistics are collected, he said. In the past, shootings that were part of another crime such as murder or robbery were not counted as aggravated battery with a firearm. Now all counted.

McCarthy said the department adjusted the 2010 shooting totals to reflect the new way the department counts aggravated batteries with a firearm. This year through Sunday, there were 2,115 shooting victims compared to 2,283 for the same period of 2010.

“This is the eighth straight week that we’ve got 20 percent reductions in crime,” McCarthy said. “This is not a success, but it’s certainly a start.”

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